Tips for great email newsletters

Written on the 12 May 2009

So some expert has told you that it's not worth your while to do a newsletter because every man and his dog has a newsletter and people are sick of having their inboxes filled up with junk?

That expert does have some valid points - lots of companies send newsletters and people are sick of spam - but that doesn't mean you should can your email newsletter altogether.   Instead of getting rid of your newsletter, you need to fine tune it to make sure it's providing valuable content to your readers, because almost everyone on your mailing list will read a newsletter that is relevant and informative.

Here are some tips to help you create better newsletters (plus practical advice for Database Marketing users):

Subject lines

This is what will capture the recipient's attention and determine if they read your newsletter or not.  So make it count!  Draw them in by telling them what they'll get from reading the email and make it relevant to them.  For example, if your readers are small business owners try "13 must know facts about small business technology" or if you are selling baby products to mums, use something like "New products to keep your baby healthy and happy".  Also, if you are offering some kind of special or discount, that is a great hook for your subject line so make sure you use that - "25% off remedial massage in May".  Final words of advice - keep it short and sweet because most email programs have a cut off point for displaying subject lines, and put your business name in the 'from' or 'sender' field rather than taking up valuable space in the subject line.

Tip for Database Marketing users - make your subject lines even more effective by personalising them with the recipient's name.  In the subject line field, choose the First Name custom field from the dropdown list and every email you send out will have the person's name in it.  This works best when you already have a good relationship with the recipient (eg. if they are already a client) otherwise it may come across as spammy.

Spam check

Spammers are the reason why email newsletters are so challenging for legitimate senders - we have to try a lot harder to make sure our emails don't look like anything that a spammer would send.  You will never be able to guarantee your emails get through spam filters but if you avoid the typical spam behaviour below then you should get great results from your email marketing:

  • Excessive punctuation - spammer are notorious for being heavy on the punctuation!!!  Avoid all unnecessary punctuation in your subject line - a question mark is okay but steer clear of exclamation marks at all costs.
  • Capital letters - spammers also like to attract attention by writing in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.  Just stick with normal sentence case in your subject lines.
  • Trigger words - words like 'free' and 'weight loss' are common spam words so putting these in your subject line is asking to be blocked.  Use them sparingly in your content as well.  See a full list of words to avoid here.
  • Spelling mistakes - this is an obvious one.  Spelling mistakes make your emails look like spam and also make your business look unprofessional so take the time to proofread before you send.

Tip for Database Marketing users - when you create a newsletter using the templates we created we for you, you have the option to edit the HTML version and the text version.  You need to both - most people see the HTML version so that has to look nice but spam filters check for your text version and if it doesn't match the HTML then your email won't make it through.  So in step 2 of editing your campaign, click on the link to edit the text version and hit the middle icon at the top to 'copy from HTML'.  This automatically copies the text over from the HTML version so your email won't get picked up by spam filters.


If you have a dog and your local vet sends you a newsletter about cats each week, you're not going to read it are you?  So if you're sending newsletters to your database with boring, irrelevant content then you can hardly expect them to read it.  So you need to make sure you are giving them something they are interested in.

Target your newsletters - if you have a lot of different people in your database (eg. suppliers, new clients, past clients, prospects etc) then it may be a good idea to send each group a different newsletter.  Some things may be relevant to all of them (company news, a new product etc.) but mostly they won't have the same needs or interests.  A good strategy is to use one main article in each newsletter, then write a few smaller articles for the specific groups and send out 2 or 3 different newsletters.

Education is key - of course you want to generate leads and sales from your emails but if you bombard your readers with advertising messages, they will quickly tune out.  The general rule is 20% advertising to 80% education, so write some how-to articles, industry reports or top tips so your readers get some value from your newsletters and think of you as the expert - the sales will come as a result of this.

Tip for Database Marketing users - managing your content is easy if you use the article library tool.  Write and save all your articles in here, and then simply create links to them in your email campaign.  Write a short blurb in the email with "read the rest of this article here" and then link that through to you article.  To do this, highlight the text, click on the hyperlink icon, choose 'My Articles' from the dropdown and find the name of your article.  This will cut some time out of creating mutliple newsletters.

Don't just see your newsletters are something you have to throw together every month because everyone else is doing on.  It will be a much more effective strategy if you spend some time finding out what your database wants and testing different ideas.

Free whitepaper

Newsletters should be part of a bigger database marketing strategy, including automated emails, welcome letters and surveys.  We've put together a training whitepaper to help you create a database marketing plan for your business that includes a variety of different strategies to ensure you are getting the most from your database.

Download it here (PDF)

This plan is formulated around the Bloomtools Database Marketing system.  Find out more about this database marketing solution here